Go-on rates: A deeper dive into the declining numbers

When Idaho’s “go-on rates” fell sharply last fall, they decreased in every demographic group.

And that includes some crucial demographic groups — such as Hispanic students and students from low-income households.

Idaho Education News reported last week on a precipitous drop in the go-on rate, the percentage of high school graduates who continue their education. Only 38 percent of Idaho’s high school class of 2020 enrolled in college or career-technical programs last fall — a decrease of 7 percentage points, which translates to roughly 1,400 high school graduates.

Inevitably, these go-on rates improve from the “immediate” spring-to-fall numbers. Some young adults decide to continue their education after taking a gap year, serving in the military or completing a church mission. But it’s too early to tell how much the 2020 numbers will rebound — and whether this year’s slump is a blip caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Board provided more demographic data this week, and across the board, the numbers are discouraging.


Class of 2019 Class of 2020
White 46 percent 39 percent
Hispanic 40 percent 34 percent
American Indian 37 percent 35 percent
Black 50 percent 44 percent
Asian 61 percent 59 percent
Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander 36 percent 22 percent
Multiracial 49 percent 41 percent

These demographics are important because Idaho’s Hispanic and American Indian graduation numbers are among the worst in the nation. Any dropoff in these groups’ go-on rates could make an old problem even worse.

In 2018, only 16.5 percent of Idaho’s Hispanic adults held at least an associate’s degree, according to the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation. Only three states had a lower rate. Idaho’s American Indian adults had a 17.7 percent graduation rate, according to the 2018 Lumina Foundation report; again, only three states rated lower.

For Hispanic students, the state’s largest ethnic minority, the drop in go-on rates is statistically significant. In other words, that means the decrease was probably not just a chance occurrence. That isn’t the case for American Indian students, a much smaller group; the State Board cannot rule out a chance occurrence.

Economic categories

Class of 2019 Class of 2020
Economically disadvantaged 35 percent 31 percent
Not economically disadvantaged 55 percent 45 percent

The State Board believes some graduates — from middle-class or upper-class families — are holding off on college because they can afford to do so, and because they don’t want to start college online. That’s especially true for students who were planning to go to college outside Idaho.

But many of the state’s education policies are designed to make college affordable for students from low-income households. That includes the state’s Opportunity Scholarship, a growing and need-based offering.

These decreases in go-on rates are statistically significant.


Class of 2019 Class of 2020
Male 37 percent 30 percent
Female 54 percent 46 percent

This isn’t new and it isn’t unique to Idaho. Young women are more likely to continue their education after high school. Young men are more likely to go from high school to the workplace.

These decreased go-on rates are statistically significant.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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